Thursday -- December 2, 2010
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.3     Water Temperature: 44

The river is really rising fast now, I guess the surge is here.

Right here on the Island in the last 24 hours I've seen; two eagles perched together in a sycamore tree, a red-tailed hawk with a dead squirrel, three deer, two cute raccoons in a tree and two beaver. I hope to add otters and mink to my list some day but I'd have to stay up all night to catch a glimpse of one of them.

Friday -- December 3, 2010
Water Level at Little Falls: 6.68     Water Temperature: 44


Well the dock is under water right now and it looks like the ferry will be closed again tomorrow. It hasn't been like this in a long time and I have to remind myself on how to deal with the swollen river. I wished I had taken the trash up the hill before I had to put the ferry out of commission, today is trash day and I hate pulling those bags out of the canoe.

It was funny last night. I went out thinking that the river would not go up until today but when I got home the dock was two feet under water. I was not prepared and I had to disembark from the ferry into two feet of cold ass water. Luckily I was at home and I could get out of my wet clothes right away.

I didn't go back out last night to raise up the bell rope and by this morning the river had gotten hold of it. I tried to pull it in but the current was too strong. Once the river has it, ten men couldn't pull that rope in. I didn't want the rope to break in the wrong place so I was forced cut the line. Then I went over and coiled up the wet rope on the mainland side.

Saturday -- December 4, 2010
Water Level at Little Falls: 6.4     Water Temperature: 44

FYI, the river is above five feet and the ferry is closed. I don't know who the relief caretaker is but I hope they get this message.

Sunday -- December 5, 2010
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.9     Water Temperature: 44

The ferry is running again and we are open for business. The only problem is that the wind is blowing pretty hard out there.

Monday -- December 6, 2010
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.4     Water Temperature: 40

I closed the club bathrooms and turned off all the water to the clubhouse today. I hated to do it but with temperatures dipping into the low twenties tonight I was afraid to take a chance and have the pipes freeze overnight.

I was treated to an early morning red-shouldered hawk perched on a small tree just outside my window.

Sunday -- December 19, 2010
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.2     Water Temperature: 0


I returned home from my mini vacation to Florida on Friday afternoon, only to find that the river was frozen and covered in snow. You would think that since I was just returning from sunny Florida that the sight of an icy river in a winter wasteland would be disheartening and cause me to cower away. But in fact, the opposite was true. The sun glistening off of the ice and the feel of the brisk air gave my heart a lift and I was glad to be back at my Island home.

I had one little problem though. The ferry was completely encrusted in the ice and I had no way of getting to my house. The ice was too thick (a solid inch) to even consider breaking the ferry free and it was definitely too thin to attempt walking across. I felt a little stupid for not anticipating this situation, I should have locked a canoe up on the mainland before I left town. You'd think that by now I would know better, cold snaps and floods only happen when I go away. I needed a canoe and the closest one that I knew I could procure was at my brother's in Arlington so I climbed back up the hill and started the rush-hour drive over chain bridge to Virginia. The traffic wasn't as bad as I'd predicted, but it still took me a while to get over there and load his heavy boat on to my van by myself. It didn't help that the canoe and my van's roof were covered in snow and my hands were like ice by the time I had the thing secured to the rack.

When I finally got back to the ferry landing with the canoe, the light was pretty much gone and I began to wonder if a night crossing was a good idea. I decided to do a test and see just how difficult it would be to pull the canoe over the snow-covered ice. I plopped the canoe down and gingerly stepped aboard, being careful to hold the ferry rope for balance. I heard some cracking noises as the canoe took all of my weight but the friction of the snow made it impossible to drag the boat over the river. Thankfully, I have a healthy sense of fear and I decided to back off and not do anything crazy. I decided to spend the night at a friends and tackle the problem in the morning.

When I retuned on Saturday morning I found that an unusual, yet fortunate, thing had happened. It looked as if someone had come and swept the snow from under the ferry rope for now there was a perfect, snow-free path directly to the dock on the Island. What I think happened was that when I put the canoe on the ice the night before I caused the ice to crack. The crack, which miraculously spanned the entire width of the channel, allowed some water to seep onto the surface of the ice which melted the snow. The water refroze during the night, giving me a nice smooth surface for gliding my canoe.

The first thing I noticed when I reached the Island were the paw prints that were everywhere. It was obvious that at least one fox had had a heyday checking out every corner of the Island. I put down my bags down, walked to the captains float and there it was a red fox running across the white frozen river toward Virginia. I saw another fox that day as well, but that one was dead on the side of the road on Clara Barton Parkway. It made me a little sad to think that that dead fox might have just come up the hill from the island.

The river is solid ice all the way to virginia with only small areas of open water, so there are no wintering ducks about. The only birds I've seen are the hardy, carolina wrens as they flit about, sifting through the old squirrel's nests looking for insects.

Monday -- December 20, 2010
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.2     Water Temperature: 0

Well, it looks like the cold temperatures are not leaving us anytime soon so there is no way to know when the ferry will be running again. I guess if this keeps up you all will be able to walk over to the Island, and you won't need my help at all.

There will be a full moon tomorrow, coincidentally, right on the day of the winter solstice. There is also going to be a total lunar eclipse tomorrow morning from 1:30- 5:00 am. I hope we have clear skies, and I hope I can get some pictures for you.

I was just about to talk about how nice it is to not have any mice in my house this year. Before the renovation, the mice had many ways to get into my kitchen and were in the habit of causing a lot of mischief. My hope now was that the new walls would be a little more mouse proof. Unfortunately, my hopes were dashed this morning. I was lying in bed this morning at around five AM when I heard the distinctive sound of a mouse chewing the styrofoam insulation in the ceiling above my head. I tried to ignore it, but ultimately I had to get up and bang on the ceiling between my bedroom and the kitchen upstairs. I wasn't too optimistic that the mouse would heed my frantic gesture but I was pleased when I heard it's little feet run across the ceiling and down the outside wall. I'm afraid it will be difficult to live with a mouse scurrying around on my bedroom ceiling so I will set some traps and look for any openings that may have allowed them access.

Our new Club president, Jim Drew, has asked me to think of ways to solve our problem of not having a working bathroom down here during the winter months. In the past, Captain John Matthews had a special underground pipe that fed a single heated toilet in the mens room. While this solution could feasibly be duplicated, it would be extremely difficult and costly under the current state of the plumbing. One quick and easy way to solve the problem would be to take a hint from victorian days and have a simple chamber pot. I could set up a platform with a toilet seat and a bucket, and the ladies could use that. It may seem primitive but it would save the cost of replumbing the club bathroom , plus, since we would not have to keep it constantly heated like we would if it were running water, we would save money on the subsequent heating bills. We could, of course, supply a space heater to make it a little more comfortable. Just an idea.

Wednesday -- December 22, 2010
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.2     Water Temperature: 0

The ferry is still locked in the ice but it looks like the river might be loosening it's grip a little. It is really hard to know which is the best course of action. Do I keep the ice solid to make it easier to drag the canoe over or do I break the ferry free and hope that the channel doesn't refreeze. Some members have made attempts to break the ferry free but since the ferry is on the mainland, on the south facing, sun baked shore, they get a false sense of how easy, or rather how hard, it will be to break the ice all the way across the channel.

Things are warming a bit so maybe by tomorrow I can get out the icebreaker. Right now I'm coming and going in the canoe, which is OK but now that the ice is broken around the ferry it's a little dicey. I skim over the ice and then the canoe plunges into the open water around the ferry with a jolt. I have to exercise extreme caution while stepping from the canoe to the, now buoyant, ferry. Falling in the river is not an option.

Thursday -- December 23, 2010
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.2     Water Temperature: 0

I tried to get the ferry across the river today but I did not get very far. I was optimistic about my chances since the air was warming up and the strong winds would keep the channel from refreezing. I was optimistic, but there is something about the nature of ice that I didn't factor in, once its solid it likes to stay solid. I spent over an hour doing the back-breaking work of breaking the ice with my 4X4 ice breaker post. Things went well at first, since the ice near the mainland was only an inch thick, but as I reached the quarter-way mark the ice was a stout, three and a half inches thick and not very friendly. I quickly became sore, tired and soaked with sweat, plus I was being battered by winds of 30 MPH. I decided that maybe using the canoe wasn't so bad after all.

I have a lot of incentive to get the ferry working again, but sometimes it's just a wasted effort. If there is one thing that I've learned while living here, it's that the river dictates the action and nature has her own rules. I'd like to get the ferry working if at all possible, to save myself the hassle of always having to drag a canoe out onto the ice, and to make the Island accessible to the Club, but sometimes we just have to be patient. Maybe I'll have better luck later today or tomorrow.

The wind was so powerful that I had to hold tight to the canoe lest it get swept out across the frozen river.

Yesterday I walked out to see the sunset and I was a little surprised to see, not one, not two, but three red fox trotting across the ice.

Sunday -- December 26, 2010
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.1     Water Temperature: 0

I hope everyone had a nice holiday and I hope that your stockings were filled with lots of new paddling gear!

I was bracing myself for the snowfall but it looks like we may only get a dusting, too bad.

The river ice is beginning to break up. The river is completely free of ice upriver from us, and this sun-warmed water is creating open channels around the Island as well. It may be worth the effort to clear a path for the ferry today.

Where are the birds? I finally got around to filling my bird feeder the other day but sadly, I still haven't seen any bird activity. Usually, when I put some seed out I'm surprised at how quickly the birds find it. This time, however, I haven't even seen the ever-present carolina wren at the feeder.

Tuesday -- December 28, 2010
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.1     Water Temperature: 0

Ferocious wind yesterday. There were so many whitecaps on the river that I just had to get a picture of this rare event. Of course the picture didn't do justice to the extreme scene that I photographing. The wind was blowing the water far up over the captains float and then the water would freeze, leaving an 8 inch layer of ice in the float. The river was open and the ice was completely gone on the Virginia side except for large chunks that were being cast against the shore. There were some mergansers out there and I couldn't help but marvel at their ability to cope with those severe conditions.

Today the scene was completely different. I was really surprised, when I looked out this morning, that the river had refrozen. No waves no whitecaps and no open water in sight. It was as if someone had hit the pause button on the DVD, and stopped the waves from crashing.

Unfortunately the ice around the ferry is reforming as well.

On a positive note, this cold snap might make it possible to try out my new(thrift store)skates on the canal.

Wednesday -- December 29, 2010
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.0     Water Temperature: 0

The ferry is still closed because half the channel is still solid ice(over two inches). Thankfully, it looks like the weather, and the river are about to warm up. We'll see what happens.

I'm actually glad that I wasn't able, (or didn't try) to break the ice all the way across the channel. Right now I can only pull the ferry halfway across. I then put the canoe on the solid ice and slide onto the Island. The problem is, that the open water where I pull the ferry, gets frozen overnight. I have to add ten minutes to my commute in the morning, just to give myself time to break up all the ice between me and the mainland. So I'm glad I can slide on top of the ice for at least halfway. If I'd broken up the solid ice all the way to the Island, I'd have twice the amount of ice-breaking to do in the morning.

Thursday -- December 30, 2010
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.0     Water Temperature: 0

Well I tried to break up the remaining ice today but no deal. I thought that the ice might be thinning, but after pounding it with my 4X4 post, I realized that it is still a hefty, three inches plus. I decided that it wasn't worth it and that I had better things to do with my time than to beat on concrete-like ice. Maybe the promised warm weather will make a difference.